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Nicolae Stoian: Only one tournament was enough to reveal a passion for fights that lasts for 23 years

18/05/2016 1738
 Interview with the “Iron Man” Sensei Nicolae Stoian (Romania). The idea of writing this article was born some time ago, but only now all the work was finished. Sensei Stoian is a well known person in kyokushinkai, aged 38 he is taking part in a lot of championships. Moreover he is a coach for a whole new generation of karateka, with whom he’s sharing his experience and knowledge.
Nicolaie Stoian – Romania, IKO Kyokushinkaikan
Nickname: Iron Fist, Iron man.
He began to train since 1993 at sensei Florian Toader.

Sensei, thank you for your time, and for answering the questions.
Tell us about yourself, when were you born. What was the first sport you have ever practiced, and when was it? Who  was the person that has initiated you, and what was your first success? 

Thank you for asking me!
My name is Nicolae Stoian, and I was born in Bucarest, on March 25, 1978. I was always fascinated by sports, and I admired the champions of any kind of sports. Since I was a child, I had a lot of activities, and I’va been practicing several kinds of sports: footbal, basketbal, volleybal, tennis ans box. However, it’s been only volley that I have practiced for a year, at the age of 12-13 years, afterwards I have discovered Kyokushinkai  Karate.When have you discovered Kyokushinkai Karate and who  was your first teacher?
It’s been by chance, that I hav started practicing Karate Kyokushinkai, as the dojo  was very close to  my house, and me, at the age of 15, I was looking fos a gym  to  practice body-building. At the dojo  I got acquainted to  Shihan Florian Toader, who in 1993 had his green belt, and who  was a PE teacher at a  school, where they  were also  practicing karate. From  the beggining I was practicing only to  gain force in  muscles, and I was far from  accepting the idea that I want to  practice karate. But soon, I could see what Kumite is, and I went watching the National  Karate Kyokushinkai Championship, where I had the idea that I could become a Martial Art Champion myself.

What was your first desires when you have started to practice Karate? To be only a student or to become a Champion?
I have started to  train harder soon after watching that National Championship  I have mentioned above, as for Shihan Florian , he was kidding asking me if I wanted to  continue practising only body-building. My answer was that I preferred doing only Kumite, while Kata training less. I was eager to  take part in the Championships, as for kuy / dan-test, that was of a smaller interest for me. The most important point for me was to  be a good fighter, not only on the tatami, but also  outside of it. Shihan smiled at me, and only in 3 months I was taking part in my fist Championship. That junior Championship  was enought for me to  understand that I like fighting full-contact, and it’s been 23 years that I have never stoped.

How soon have you started to  win your first medals?
I won my first trophy at a national  team  Championship, about 5 months after I have started training, and it was a second place. In 1994 I was already the Junior Vice-Champion of Romania, in -70 kg.

Do you remember how went your fisrt championships? And what feelings did you have?
I was stressed several first years, as at the age of 15 I was only a begginer, and comparative to  others I had to  work luch  harder on my physical condition, so  that I could replace the lack  of experience and the low technique level I had at that time.Nevertheless I was very determined as I knew that only hardwork can make me become a competitor. It was a time when I was working very hard during my trainings, without even having the idea that I can become what I wanted to  be. Every competition for me was a step I had to  pass succesfully, as I considered it important for my sports career. That’s why  I was a little stressed, but I do  think  that I have managed to  overcome them.


What was your main motivation? 
Since my first class I wanted to  be the best from  all the begginers, and I have fastly progressed to  the advanced level class. This thought was following me, and I was always asking Sensei what do  I have to  do  to  become a great Champion. And he tought me what did I have to  do, how to  train, all I have to  do  is to  follow his advice.
Every year my goals were changing. I was rather a realist. First, I wanted to  become Romanian Junior Champion. When this goal was achieved, I started dreaming about a place among adults, and to  be as well a part of the National team. Afterwards, to take the first place at the Romanian National  Championship  among adults, and also  at the European Championship, etc. I have made myself a plan where my goals could be gradually achieved, and this was what happened.When was the first time you have won the Romanian National  Championship, and what was the price of this victory?
In 1996 I was the Champion among juniors, and in 2000 among adults. As i have mentioned above, the experience and the training made me progress step-by-step. I was very happy everytime I was winning something, but I was fixing myself another goal immidiately. The path for the first title was not easy at all, as there was a great concurrence at that time. There were several  people with almost the same level.

How many  times did you win the title of the Romanian Champion?
I won the National Kumite Championship  for 11 times, from 2000 to 2012, and once I was Kata Champion, this was in 2007. Since 1999 I was winning all the National Championships.

When did you take part in the European Championship  for the first time? Did you manage to get a medal at once, or did it take more effort and time?
I took part at the European Championship for the first time in 1998, in Zaragoza, Spain. But the first medal I won was during my second European Championship, in 2000, in  Villa Do  Conde, Portugal, it was a bronze medal. Well, I could do  it rather fast I think.

How many times did you have to t ry to  win the European Championship?
Winning the fisrt place at the European Championship was more difficult. For years I was winning the 2nd and the 3rd places and for 4 years I was loosing my finals or semi-finals because of the Tameshiwari test. At that time I was not preparing Tameshiwari, as I was thinking that I can win the fight before it comes to  Tameshiwari. So, for several times my opponets, knowing that they had a bigger number of planks, were using a more defensive technique, and the fights were frequently ending in equality.In 2008, in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain I prepared the Tameshiwari  part as well, I had more plaks than my opponents, and it was the time for them  to  fight. I won all the fights, and no Tameshiwari number was needed. It was my 8th medal at the European Championship, but my fist Gold medal. That moment was very  important for me, and it motivated me to continue and go  further.

In your fight carrer, how many  times did you conquer the title of the European Champion, and how many times did you have other medals?
I am 3 times European Champion, twice in the middle-weight-80kg, and once at the Open Championship. I have 11 medals:
Villa do Conde, Portugal 2000 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Uzhgorod, Ucraine 2003 – 2nd place -80Kg;
Warsaw, Poland 2004 – 2nd place Open;
Varna, Bulgaria 2005 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Barcelona, Spain 2006 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Volos, Grecia 2007 – 3rd place -80Kg;
Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain 2008 – 1st place -80Kg;
Kiev, Ukraine 2009 – 1st place -80Kg;
Belgrad, Serbia 2010 – 1st place Open;
Paris, France 2013 – 3rd place Open;
Berlin, Germany 2015 – 3rd place -90Kg.
As I was feeling that European Championships was not enough for me, I have started taking part in other big competitions, sometimes I had great results, but the most important point is that I asquaired a lot of experience grace to  the fighters from other continents:
2009 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 1st place;
2009 All American Open New York – 3rd place;
2010 All American Open New York – 6th place;
2011 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 1st place;
2012 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 2nd place;
2012 All American Open New York – 6th place;
2013 US Weight Category Championship Los Angeles – 3rd place;
2015 Open de France Lyon – 1st place.

What was the most interesting and diffucult fight?
Frankly speaking I had several interesting in difficult fights, as a had about 300 fights in total. I can say that the final fight from the European Open Championship, Beograd in 2010 against Alejandro Navarro  was interesting, the fight with Ewerton Texeira from  the 10th World Championship in 2011 was also  interesting. The final fight from  the Romanian Championship in 2003, with Lucian Gogonel was a very interesting fight, as interesting as the fight with Andrews Nakanara in 2007, the 2 fights with Djema Belkhodja in 2009 and 2010, Zenjiyro Mori in 2015, the fights with Hiroyuki Kidachi in 2001 and 2005, the fight with Emil Kostov in 2002, Darmen Sadvokasov in 2012,  Krzystof Habraszka in 2000 and 2004, Oleksandr Eryomenko in 2014, Iliy Karpenko in 2013 etc. It is very difficul  to  tell only about one fight, as each of them  was difficult in it’s own way, and at that moment I had to  do  my best to  have a sucessful appearance.I’m glad that I had the namely these fights, with  these fighters as I consider them  my friends, those people with whom I shared a lot of nice moments during my fight career.When you are fighting against a good fighter, and the fight is almost equal you have to  show what you can do best. That’s good feeling, and that’s why you  keep  training all the time.

What was your most hurtful loss?
I had no  hurful loss, especially if talking from  the physical point of view. I think  here it comes more from the pride. It was only once when I was hurt with a kick among all of my 300 fights, it was in 2012 by Goderzi Kapanadze with a Ushiro  Geri. It was a moment I could avoid, as I came with a fissured rib to  take part in All American Open Championship. I want to  say that it’s been several times that I had some smaller or bigger injuries, but I have always continued fighting no  matter what the others were saying. In the same year, 2012 my daughter Victoria was born and it has been an amazing event for me and my family, and the trainings have passed on the second place for several months. That’s why my evolution in 2012 wasn’t the best one, and I had that rib injury. It’s a pity I couldn’t use my forces at 100% at that fight with Goga, because I wanted it, as he has a fighting style that I like very much. But that’s it, of course I didn’t like the feeling of loosing, nevertheless I continued going on. You  can’t walk through the rain without getting wet.When did you go for the first time in Japan? What was the Championship? What feeling did you have while flying to  this country?And after coming back?
I’ve been in Japan for the first time during the 2nd World Category Championship in 2001, where I was rancked in TOP 8 fighters. It was a great experience that motivated me to  progress a lot, and to  come back as much  as I could. I entered in the good world of World Kyokushinkai, and I could get to  know the fighters and the teachers I could only see on VHS, as I was constantly watching them  to  learn new things.

What have you earned from this trip?
I have only confirmed my thoughts about this world. The experience of taking part in such a competition,among the best fighters of the world, have only developend my trainings and further performance.From  there on it was different taking part, even in the European Championship. Everything becomes easier, as it is the highest level.

Now you’re frequent guest in Japan, what are your goals of coming there, besides World Championships?
I took part in 3 World Champiobnships and 3 Wormd Open Championships. Each time  I came very motivated and prepared, and each  time I was feeling good in this atmosphere. From  a Championship  to  another I was becoming more relaxed, and I learned to  control  my emotions,and focus better. The interaction with the Kyokushin Elite made me progress.In 2015 I have become Branch  Chief, and today I’m taking part in junior Championships, as a coach  of course.

The Japanese called you “The Romanian Iron Fist”, why and when have you received this nickname?
I’ve first noticed this, after several good performances at some Open Championships, and  All American Open in particular. Being a middle-weight fighter, I was fighting against those who  were much  heavier than me, and I was never stepping back, so  sometimes I won. In 2009 I was ranked on the 3 rd place at All American Open, and I suppose that my nickname came after this Championship. In general during the US Championships I was called „Ironman” or “The Rock”, and in Japan “The Romanian Iron Fist”.

Your fist black  belt exam, where and when was it? Who  was the examinator? Were you stressed?
I have passed my Shodan in october 2000, with Shihan Loek Hollander. For a sportsmen of the national team, a black belt examintation is an opportunitty to show what you are able to  do. For me it was more like a training, while Kumite test was my favourite. It was very important for me to receive the black  belt, as I didn’t was to  become a coach muself, till I have a black  belt and till I gradute the National  Academy of Physical Education and Sports, which  I did in 2001. In the same year I have started teaching. Before this year I was just teaching in my dojo, helping my Sensei.

How about your further black  belt examination?
In 2004 I had my Nidan examination in Bucarest, 2011- my Sandan test as well in Romania. But this time during a summercamp lead by Shihan Shin Ito and Shiha Arthur Hovanessian. My Yondan test I have passed in Lublin, during Polish  Summer Camp, where Shihan Katsushito  Gorai and Shihan Francisco Filho were invited.

Today, do you consider yourself as being one of the strongest fighters from Romania, or there is somebody else?
I don’t know what to  say, I prefer other people to  express themselves on this subject. I can only analize the results that I have during my whole career. Among my 11 European medals, 3 of them  are gold, from 6 time participating at the World Championships – twice I was ranked 6th and once 8th in the middle weight, I’m also 11 times National Champion. With such  results, I think  there is only one Romanian fighter that has more medals than I do, that’sa good friend of mine, Lucian Gogonel, who is 6 times European Champion, and World Lightweight Champion. Once I have won him and it wasn’t easy, but he has better results. Not to  forget the fact that last year, at the age of 43 years, he was fighting among the best Adult fighters, and not in the Senior age group.
Of course, there have been other Romanian fighters who  were higly ranked in the European Championships, but because of various causes, there never had that much  time and dedication to  this activity, so  they have less medals. Often, good fighters, with great potential  have to stop compiting for social reasons. To  take part in such  competitions, the fighters have to  train a lot, while they are not payed for training. That’s why  a lot of fighters had to  find a job, that was not flexible for their training schedule. I had a short life period when all I was doing was training. During my sports carrer, I was always having another activity as well: I was always teaching karate,  and I also  had a full  time job as the Security Shift Supervisor at the US Embassy from  Bucarest, in 2003-2009. During these 6 years, I have won 6 European titles,  disregarding the 40 hours of work per week, a part of them during the night shifts. Maybe If I had a sponsorwho  could guarantee me a decent living, I would have had better results! On the other hand, the fact that I had to  do  something else helped me to  develop as a person, and become what I am today! The experience I have gained is helping me a lot in my present life.

What are your keys to succes in sport career?
The keys to succes? Firstly, I think it’s the motivation and the perseverence. Mental force, has always been one of my srongest qualities. Another key is the will of fighting for someting, with a goal, the need of a competition. I love winning, and being obliged  to  move in order to  compete. Of course, my body being resistant and strong has helped me a lot. Here it is very important to  recover fastly.One day, a lot of sportsmen stop taking part in the competitions, and start their coach career. When was the first time you have thought about it?
I have started my coach  career in 2001, and I still  take part in the competitions, but we’re in 2016, so it’s been already  15 years that I’m doing both.
Nevertheless I’m  thinking about taking a time-out in my sports career, as today I have great number of students, and I don’t have time to take care of my own preparation. It’s been some years that I’m saying it, but still  each  year, when the time to  apply to  a competition comes, I’m applying, and it’s something involuntar.I know that I’m going to  miss this feeling of the fight, of the adrenaline and I have savoured this moment as long as I could. Today, at the age of 38, and being a Branch-Chief who has a lot of obligations, so  I think  the moment has come. But I can’t guaratee that! We’ll  see in some months, as now I have a tiny wound that doesn’t allow me to  compete for about 6 months.

What are your coach results that you are proud of today?
I’m  proud of my team of young Karateka, who  have started this year with already  2 competitions, one in Budapest and another in Varna where thety have won 7 medals, 4 of which  are gold. The older ones have taken part in the World and European Competitions, and I’m sure this is only the beggining. It is very important to have a lot of people in a team, so that they could compete even during the lessons.

Is there any student of yours who  would like to  become a coach?
Yes, some of them are already  teaching, even if they are young enough. I’m  managing several sportsmen, and together we’re developpig Kyokushin Karate in Romania. To my mind, it’s the only possibility to  keep  them  closer. Moreover, it is good for the younger students, as they have the example of the oldest.

Some of your student take part in other competitions than Kyokushin? What motivates them? Not enough adrenaline from Kyokushinkai  competitions? Or it halps them  succeed in Kyokushin?
Some of my students take part in Kick  Boxing and Muay Thai competitions, as well as I did in 1998-2002 when I was fighting in Kick  Boxing, Muay Thai, and MMA competitions. All I wanted was to see if my Kyokushink experience was enough to  perform  there. It was very interesting, and it has changed my point of view on the competition, as I have “borrowed” something from  them. It has only motivated me to  continue taking part in Kyokushinkai  championships. That’s why  with these students I’m  wornking on Kyikushink and Kick  Boxing technique. It’s not easy to  have good results in both, and I believe that one of them  should be primal, and the other secondar.

What is the “recepie of succes” for a fighter in your opinion?
The most important is for the fighter to  have the dream of becoming a great champion, to  be eyes-wide-open and to  receive the information as needed. To develop, it is very important to  be surrounded by hight level fighters, who  are ready to  work to  obtain something. Of course, what is also  very important is the correct training method, and strategy. Lifestyle, food, pshycological preparation, social life are also  very important.

There are some moments when a person quits sports, and them comes back. Have you experienced such moments? If yes what motivates both?
Frankly speaking I have never quit sports, as I adore this activity. There have been moments, when there where people who  tryed to  stop me and other sportsmen from  sports performance, but stubborn as I am, I didn’t quit because of the wrong management, it only determined me to  continue. I was even more eager to  train, when there was no one to  support me. All I wanted was to  win, so  I was always finding my own motivation.

A lot of sportmen of your age don’t only stop compiting, moreover they quit sports, what motivates you to stay and continue?
The feeling that I have while being of the tatami watching my opponent, has probably created a dependance. I like this feeling, and it makes me feel strong, happy and fullfilled. It is worth all the job that was done!

What does becoming a Brach Chief mean to you?
Well it doesn’t make me feel a different person, as the thing that matters for me is the human quality. I’m  trying to  be correct, and not to  bother the others with  anything, everything has to  be in harmony. Still, the fact that I have become a Branch  Chief is very important, as it makes me more responsable and qualitative  in everything I’m doing. Now I can discuss with the other Branch  Chiefs and Honbu, and it allows me to  make a good teamwork. This team proves me that thesucces of Kyokushinka Karate is due to  their teamwork. I’m feeling very good being a part of this international  family, and each  trip  for IKO events halps me gain some new experience.

What are the conditions to become a Brach Chief?
I think that firstly one has to  be a good karateka, to be in good relations with the others, to  be objective, correct and wise. To be a good manager so that your proffesional ethics could inspire the others.Looking back at the times you had your white belt, what is Kyokushin for you, and what has it given to you in this life?
Kyokushin Karate taught me how to depend on myself, not counting on the others, as on a tatami. When you’re on the tatami, having all the trainings behind you, and getting all the pieces of advice from  your coach, but it’s only you who  have win your opponent. Nobody  else will  fight for yourself. Looking at my life this way, I have learned not to  wait something from  the others, and to realize that everything I’m  doing matters to me. We have a quatation in Romania that says “as you make your bed, so  you must lie on it”.

Sensei we wish you and your students luck in the coming competitions, and thank  you for telling us about your path in Kyokushin!
Thank you for the interview, and i’m  glad we know eachother!

Roman Odessky
translated Nastasia Iavorskaia
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